Our People: Ian Christopher, Severn Utilities Valves

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Severn Glocon Group employs around 1,000 people worldwide. Each of them plays an important role in the ongoing success of the business. Our People is an opportunity to get to know some of them a little better. Today, we’re talking with Ian Christopher, Commercial Manager for Severn Utilities Valves (SUV). Ian has 20 years’ experience in the water industry and a strong mechanical engineering background. Since he joined the Group two years ago, he’s streamlined operations at SUV and overseen development of its new Rugby facility. We asked him what’s next for the water valves supplier.

How’s business going for SUV?

We’re in a very strong position at the moment. The opening of our technical and logistics centre in Rugby has energised the team and laid foundations for further growth. We have the capabilities and expertise to seize the many opportunities that exist both in the UK and overseas. We’ve recently secured some landmark projects that will really put us on the map as a leading supplier of valves for our target sectors.

Which regions do you operate in?

At the moment, we’re focusing on the UK, Middle East and North Africa as we have an established presence in these regions. The UK water industry is a key market for us and there are also a lot of export opportunities for our products. We’re about to deliver on a contract involving 71 valves and 46 dismantling joints in sizes up to DN1600 for a Middle East project associated with the world’s largest drinking water facility. The successful completion of this project underlines the extent of our capabilities.

What are your ambitions for the business?

My goal is to ensure SUV earns market leading status as a specialist supplier of valve products. Our target sectors include water, power and general industry. In some cases we are competing with organisations that have operated in these markets for more than 100 years, which can be challenging at times. However, we offer a unique engineering-led approach, underpinned by the sophisticated Severn Glocon Group infrastructure. This is helping us to quickly establish a reputation for quality, reliability and innovation.

Can you tell us more about the engineering-led approach?

We have a good depth and breadth of technical understanding, both across valve products and the valve applications and wider issues facing the industries we operate in. My own skill set is rooted in a mechanical engineering background, and our technical sales team provides an excellent advisory service for clients. This technical expertise manifests itself in our ability to make the best product recommendations to fulfil customers’ needs. We complement this with strategic guidance on maintenance routines and seamless installation support. When the need arises, we work in partnership with sister companies Severn Unival and Severn Drives & Energy to offer further value and benefits to customers.

How do you collaborate with the wider Severn Glocon Group?

Working with Severn Unival, we can inspect problem valves and advise clients whether they need to be replaced or if they could benefit from an upgrade instead. Severn Unival has more than three decades’ experience in the modification, retrofitting and re-engineering of valves deployed in oil and gas applications. Applying this expertise to the water industry offers a new way to improve valve performance quickly and cost effectively.

Severn Drives & Energy also has much to offer our customers. Its variable speed drives and soft starters can significantly enhance the energy profiles of electronic equipment such as pumps.

Naturally, we also benefit from the infrastructure and international footprint of the wider Severn Glocon Group. Employing seven people at present, SUV is a relatively small Group division. However, the team is 100 per cent customer focused thanks to the back office support we receive from our parent company.

Are there any challenges facing your target sectors?

The water industry is currently getting to grips with the ‘totex’ focus introduced as part of its sixth asset management period (AMP6) in 2015. The goal is to focus less on the upfront cost of assets and to strive for upgrades and improvements that will last longer with lower operational costs. We support this by concentrating on the refurbishment of customers’ existing plant wherever possible. Our ‘Total Valve Solution’ means we can select the most cost-effective route for the customer, whether that involves refurb or replacement.

This shift from a capex (capital expenditure) to totex (total expenditure) mind-set represents a significant change for the sector. However, SUV is geared up to support customers as they adapt to the new approach. The quality and reliability of our products, combined with the valve upgrade capabilities of Severn Unival, make us ideally suited for a totex environment.


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